Where does the time go?

It is now a week since I went back to work, I am doing half days for the remainder of this week and will be working full time from Monday. As the days go by it is getting easier, to begin with, my poorly eye suffered the most but it is now much improved and providing I remember to have frequent breaks from screen staring it does not get uncomfortable. I am tired, when I get home from work I often have an afternoon nap.

Saturday morning Megan and I went to our second Art Journalling class, this week we were working with collage, I’ve not done this since junior school and it’s not something I would think to do when I’m feeling creative. I started off with an idea in mind but as I looked through the magazines and papers, the images and words that appealed led me in a different direction. I’m not sure about the page, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous week.

 Art Journal 28 Feb

When we got home from Art Journalling, there was a lovely surprise waiting for me. My sister Nicola had seen an article on ‘The One Show’ about colouring for grown-ups, she decided to have a go at it and thought I might enjoy it too so ordered books for both of us. The book is called ‘Colour Me Calm’, the drawings are varied with plenty to choose from, I’m really pleased with it. When Ray went to the driving range on Sunday afternoon I sat with relaxing music on, my colouring book and pencils, this is my first completed page:

 Colouring

I came across this article on Huffington Post about colouring for grown-ups, the evidence confirms it is good for the soul!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/13/coloring-for-stress_n_5975832.html?ir=Parents&ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000037

Tuesday was a very busy day, I started work early as I needed to be at The Lynda Jackson Centre for an afternoon of pampering with volunteers from the charity Look Good Feel Better (http://www.lookgoodfeelbetter.co.uk/)

It was a brilliant afternoon and if any of you ladies have had or are undergoing treatment for Cancer have not yet taken part, then I recommend that you do.

There were nine women plus four volunteer make-up consultants, each of us received a bag containing enough products to start from cleansing, through to being fully made up. The volunteers demonstrated how to use the products and how to apply our make-up, they were very helpful and encouraging. When the session had finished, we all admired each other’s ‘after’ faces, it does make a difference having the full works, we were all very happy with how we looked.

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I very rarely wear wakeup, but since LGFB I have made more of an effort, it is only two days and I can’t promise to stick with it but when I do I now know how to use it properly.

In the evening Ray and I went for our first class on Zenways Mindfulness Meditation, Ray has got back in to ‘work mode’ and is having trouble relaxing again, hopefully he will overcome this with practice. We are supposed to aim for a half hour meditation each day, we didn’t manage it on Wednesday evening but I have found an App with a Body Scan Meditation which is the meditation for this week so we will be trying this out later.

Tuesday was the busiest day I have had since diagnosis and I certainly feel it, I was very tired yesterday and today I’m feeling drained.

Wednesday was our last meeting for the HOPE Course, I feel sad about this as it has been such a pleasure being able to talk with a group of women who have been through Cancer Treatment. We have found that we have similar worries and problems and throughout the six weeks have grown stronger, more positive and better able to deal with our day to day challenges. I will miss seeing the five ladies on the course and also our two facilitators, but the good news is that a monthly meeting is being arranged, so I may be able to see my HOPE friends again and also meet others who have previously done the course.

This last week has whizzed by, I have been back at work for just over a week and have done so much else that the time has gone really quickly. I hope I can battle my way through this tiredness soon.

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Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work I go

Thursday was my first day back in the office since 14th October 2014, I’m doing a phased return, my hours for this week and next are 10 am to 2 pm. I have been looking forward to getting back to work, and getting back to a near normal routine.

I have been surprised by how happy I am at being back at work, like everything in life, some of it I could do without, but I mostly enjoy my job, and I work with some great people. I have been really happy to be there these two half days.

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Tiredness has got the better of me though, on both days I have felt tired towards the end of the four hours and have had a sleep when I got home. My colleagues have been welcoming, much as I love my family, it is good to see some different faces during the day. Getting up the stairs has been a struggle, there are more steps than at home and I am out of breath by the time I’ve walked from the car park and up to the office, makes me feel old! I will have to find excuses to go up and down the stairs so I get used to them again.

We are a small team and my absence has impacted the workload for everyone, some of my tasks have not been looked at whilst I have been away but I will get through it bit by bit.

My eye has coped reasonably well with looking at a PC monitor for up to four hours, it has got uncomfortable towards the end of my time at work but not unbearably so. I think the biggest impact has been on my arms and shoulders, they are stiff and sore this evening and have been objecting to being laid on in the night.

The HOPE Course this week was about physical activity and I resolved to go for a walk with Shadow over the weekend, judging by my lack of stamina it will have to be a short walk. But then I have an excuse, poor Shadow has a limp on his front left leg this evening, he must have strained it on his walk with Ray this morning, so it will be restricted walks with no games of ‘fetch’ for a few days.

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I have been getting used to wearing a bra again, some days it is not too bad and other days it just has to come off. We were all watching TV one evening this week and that point had come, I did the undo hooks, straps down inside my sleeves, and pull off through the neckline trick. My daughter noticed and said in a shocked tone ‘Mum, did you just take your bra off?’ I had to giggle to myself, she is 24 but is easily offended bless her.

Bra and Shopping

I have had a few sharp pains in my left breast today, the healing process is ongoing, I still have obvious seroma in my right breast, the left is more deep seated so is less noticeable. Apparently the seroma can take many months to be re-absorbed so I have to wait until it is all cleared to find out what my shape will settle to.

I’m feeling tired again now so it is time for bed, tomorrow is Art Journalling for Megan and I, looking forward to that, we will be making collages, such fun!

2014-03-13 18.13.43

 

Eye Surgery and Female Bonding

Well, it was okay, the worst thing was the long wait, I had to be on the ward for 7:30 am, Ray was able to stay with me until he had to leave for his appointment in High Wycombe with Dr Jackson. Ray visited a friend after seeing Dr Jackson and still arrived back at the hospital before I had been for surgery. Ray had a good discussion with Dr Jackson, it appears that the MRI was so important as they needed to be sure that Ray’s symptoms were not being caused by a brain tumour. I’ll admit that this never occurred to me, and I’m glad about that as things were bad enough at the time without that to worry about as well.

For some of the time, I chatted with a lady whose husband had gone for surgery, she was jolly and cheerful, her sense of humour was great, and she did a good job of keeping my mind off the operation. We had quite a laugh together, talking about failing memories and the joys of getting older, Glennis is over twenty years older than me and had been single until marrying her husband Mike 17 years ago. They were able to leave soon after Mike had returned from his operation so I spent the remaining time reading.

When my turn for surgery came, Ray had just arrived, so he went off in search of some lunch. The surgeon was great, he covered my right eye for me as I didn’t want to see what was going on and answered my questions before and during the surgery. With all the various drops I had put in my left eye, I wasn’t able to make out much of what was happening, all I could feel was pressure as the surgeon worked to remove the Scleral Buckle. When it was all done, the eye was covered with a dressing, the cover was removed from my right eye and I was walked back to the ward. After coffee and toast I was allowed to go home. When we got home, I went straight to bed and slept off the stress.

The next morning my eye was uncomfortable but bearable, I had to take the dressing off so that I could start with the antibiotic/anti-inflammatory eye drops the hospital had given me. It was much better than when the Scleral Buckle had been inserted 18 months ago, although it was puffy, my eyelid opened and the eye was only red to the bottom left and underneath the iris where the buckle had been.

This is how it looked 18 months ago, day one and three days post-op

IMG_0767      IMG_0769

And this is Wednesday before and after taking off the patch 

  2015-02-10 19.26.36   2015-02-12 17.44.28

Fortunately, I was recovered enough to go to the HOPE Course on Wednesday, Josh drove me as my eyesight wasn’t legal, after all the years of ferrying your children about, it’s fabulous when they reach the stage of passing their driving test and being available for chauffeuring duties!

This week at HOPE, we talked about body image, and sexuality and intimacy. Other than the hot flushes, one other distressing side effect of the Tamoxifen is vaginal dryness. The lady I sit with told me she had the same problem and was prescribed hormonal pessaries which she finds do the trick, so it’s now on my list to ask about next time I see my GP. Being able to talk so openly with other women about the impact of cancer on relationships, emotions and life in general is so therapeutic, we have so much to offer each other in sharing our feelings and experiences. I recommend it to any of you reading this who are having or have had treatment for cancer.

This week we were asked to set a goal related to the topic, so I have decided to get a proper bra fitting, all the bras I have are now uncomfortable or the wrong size in various directions. So on Monday I am off to M&S for a measuring and fitting appointment. I am not looking forward to the trying on part, I always seem to get sweaty in fitting rooms and with the hot flushes making a re-appearance, it could be an embarrassing event!

The last few days have been a nightmare of overheated dampness, if I make any move to do anything other than sit still I end up bathed in sweat, when this happens I get short tempered, best described as hot and bothered. I thought I had got over this but it appears not, I’m tired of it now, I hope this phase wears off again soon, I seem to spend more and more time at home with just a vest on top, it’s really not cool!

Ray ordered a small desk fan for me to have on my desk when I go back to work, I have been making use of it today, I told him I need another one to keep at home, as I type this, I can feel the heat building again.

My eye is getting better, I could see well enough to drive on Friday, and the redness is dispersing so that the white is now varying shades of red through to yellow and I am managing without pain relief during the day. By the evening, it is tired and sore so I take painkillers to help me sleep. I have a lovely plastic eye shield to put on at night so that I don’t accidentally rub or knock it in my sleep. It occurred to me yesterday that it looks a little like I am beginning to be assimilated by The Borg!

I’d like to claim to look like Jeri Ryan as ‘Seven of Nine’ after she has recovered from being severed from the Borg Collective, but it would be more honest to say I more closely resemble her when she has just been rescued, only I still can’t claim to have such an impressive physique!

 Star Trek Voyager - Seven of Nine Jeri Ryan       In Sickbay A drone no longer Seven of Nine severed from the Borg Collective

Birthday and Countdown to Return to Work – Ah, OK, Maybe Not Just Yet Then.

Friday 30th January was my Birthday, I am happy to now be 52 years old, I am grateful to be reasonably healthy, have a wonderful Husband, Daughter, Son and Sisters, have a choice few lovely friends, an adorable Dog and all of life’s essentials. Ray and I took Shadow for a slow walk round the flat pathways at Wendover Woods, followed by a coffee each from the café in the woods, and lunch in Chesham. I opened my gifts in the evening after dinner, Ray gave me a craft light with magnifying lens, my eyesight is not what it was, so this is very welcome! and a Loreena McKennitt CD. Megan gave me a ‘Mother and Child’ and purple glass charms for my bracelet, an angel’s wing to go on my angel necklace and some Lindor chocolates. Josh and Liza gave me a Kirtsy Allsop Pyrography Kit, a different Loreena McKennitt CD and some Lindor chocolates, as you have probably guessed, these are a favourite of mine. My sister Sharon sent me a ‘Terrific Year Project’ Calendar, my friend Jenny gave me a stained glass heart hanging, and our neighbour Jacqui gave me two fresh cream choux buns which I shared with Ray. Liza made a tasty fruit salad, with lots of different fruits, really good! We delayed the birthday meal until Saturday and had a takeaway from Chesham Cottage, it was excellent, really tasty and plenty of food, I saved half of mine and had it for dinner on Sunday. It was a lovely calm, chilled out Birthday, one I will remember for a long time as it was just so enjoyable and fantastic not to have to rush about anywhere.

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On Monday, I was reminded that 2nd February was the 25th Anniversary of the day F. W. de Klerk released Nelson Mandela unconditionally and legalised all formerly banned political parties. De Klerk, the then new president of South Africa, believed that apartheid was unsustainable and unconditionally released all ANC (African National Congress) prisoners. I have always admired Nelson Mandela, he endured so much, but because of his principals was a wise and compassionate man. He made so many excellent, inspirational speeches, these are excerpts are two of my favourites:

freedom-nelson-mandela-picture-quote

nelson-mandela-quote

Our HOPE Course ‘homework’ this week was to do something mindfully, I chose to work on a craft project mindfully. So I have been taking notice of the smells of the paint and glue, which sounds slightly dodgy! To set your minds at rest it is emulsion paint and PVA glue so no noxious vapours! I have also taken notice of the textures of the painted surfaces, the sandpaper I have used to distress the edges of the small unit I am working on, the decoupage paper I will be decorating it with, and the fibres of the brushes as I clean them. I have been using my magnifying craft light to cut out some butterflies for the unit, it is perfect, so much better for my eyes and I can cut around small shapes easily. This is a much bigger project than the birdhouse, it’s not finished yet, but all that is left to do now is to varnish it. I’m going to be keeping my fingers crossed that none of the stamping and ageing mediums don’t run, here’s hoping!

Mind Full

We woke up to snow yesterday, Ray took Shadow out for his walk but didn’t take a ball as it usually gets lost when there is snow, Shadow is not good at finding his ball unless he sees exactly where it lands. Shadow lasted until they were on the way home and then decided he really couldn’t come home without a game of fetch, so he brought Ray a stick to throw instead. Shadow just loves to play fetch, he has a basket of toys at home to play with and will often tip everything out to find a favourite toy for one of us to throw for him.

In my Day

I have been getting myself psyched up to return to work part-time next Monday, but yesterday morning the postman delivered a letter from the eye hospital telling me I am booked in to have the Scleral Buckle removed from my left eye ….. on Tuesday!

So, my return to work will be delayed by around two weeks, and I have more pain to come, but as I have been through it all before when the buckle was fitted, I know what to expect. And the discomfort will not last as long as it did following last October’s Bi-lateral Wide Local Excision Breast Surgery and Sentinel Node Biopsies.

My breasts are getting on much better now, I keep forgetting to mention that I still have a slight blue tinge lingering in my left breast from the radioactive dye, and its over three months since I had the surgery. The worst of the peeling is now finished, where it was at its worst there is some secondary peeling but nothing major. The Seroma in my right armpit has now almost completely cleared up, but there is still quite a lot of fluid in the right breast, a slight dent is slowly developing as the fluid begins to drain away. Yesterday I decide it was time to try wearing a soft bra, I managed for most of the day, but by the early evening enough was enough, so bra off, vest on, and breathe! It is great that I am now able to have pain free showers, dodging about to avoid the spray falling on sore nipples can be awkward in a confined space. And, I have managed to wear a post-surgery bra all day today, yippee!

Throw my Bra

In an earlier blog, I said that I was thinking about having a tattoo to disguise the Radiotherapy dot between my breasts. I have decided not to go ahead because if the breast cancer comes back, it could cause problems with radiotherapy measurement marks. I might just get some temporary tattoos or cover the dot with a stick-on bindi if I ever wear a low cut top, do you think I could get away with that?

2014-07-09 22.13.40

And in other news, on Saturday, Ray realised that he is now able to move his tongue to the left side of his mouth, he hadn’t been able to do this since his second TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) in November. He has muscle wastage in the left side of his tongue but will probably regain this now that he can move it about. It has made eating much easier for him, he can now chew on the left without biting his tongue and getting food stuck which is brilliant!

Ray had his check-up appointment today with Dr Burn at the Stroke Unit. Dr Burn is happy with Ray’s progress, says that he can return to work part time to start with and see how he gets on before increasing his hours. Ray will have another check-up in four months, if all is still progressing well, and he has had no more TIA’s then Dr Burn will discharge him. However, Dr Burns says Ray should not play golf for at least another month, Ray was very disappointed to hear that, he has been itching to get on the golf course.

As I wanted to be with Ray for his check-up I didn’t make the HOPE Course today, tomorrow I will be at The Lynda Jackson Centre for Relaxation class and an Aromatherapy massage. If Sue (one of the HOPE facilitators) is there, I will be able to find out what our homework is for the coming week.

Today is World Cancer Day, the news this morning said that the percentage of people having a cancer diagnosis has risen from one in three to one in two, that is not good news, but I suppose the balance for that is that more people are now surviving cancer, so lets hold on to that thought.

World Cancer Day

Creativity – Make A Little Birdhouse In Your Soul

Time has flown since my last blog, and I have not been sleeping well and have not felt up to writing by the time we all sit down to watch TV in the evenings. Well, to be honest, I listen and glance at it every now and then between typing, it no longer holds my attention as it used to.

Last Wednesday was the first session of the HOPE Course, myself and seven women talked about our Cancers, our feelings, our families and our jobs, the marvellous thing being that we all understood each other. Individually, we had shared the fears, pain, stress, worry in any or all combinations and more. To be able to speak and share together is tremendously healing.

For part of the session, we talked about Gratitude, and were given a sheet to complete for each day to record what we are grateful for and why. This is something I had planned to do but haven’t, I was hoping the sheet would give me the motivation to write something for each day but I’ve not managed it, but I am not going to chastise myself over it.

We also thought about setting ‘SMARTER’ goals:

Specific – Am I clear exactly what my goal is?

Measurable – How will I know when I have completed my goal? What does it look like?

Achievable – Can I really achieve this task? (Don’t set yourself up to fail!)

Relevant – Is the goal important to you?

Time-Bound – When do I want to have reached my goal?

Enjoyable – Is my goal enjoyable?

Reward – What reward will I give myself when I am successful?

Each of us chose a goal for the coming week, mine was to start and complete a small craft project, specifically to decorate a miniature MDF Birdhouse, and I am happy to report that I have achieved my goal!

This is the blank birdhouse:

2015-01-27 16.22.01

It is a first attempt, I experimented with some stamping inks which I thought were solvent based, turns out they weren’t, so when I painted the varnish over the print it ran. Fortunately, I had only used this stamp on one area and was able to wipe it off and then re-apply using the solvent based inks I had used for the remainder of the project. But I am encouraged to do more crafting, I really enjoyed the sticking, stamping, painting in the flowers and varnishing the little birdhouse.

And this is the finished project:

2015-01-27 16.23.04   2015-01-27 16.22.52  2015-01-27 16.22.37   2015-01-27 16.22.23

Creativity is something I aspire to immerse myself in, but I seem to spend more time looking for ideas in Pinterest than actually working on a project. One of my goals for this year is to give myself time to work on crafting and sewing, I am hopeful that this is an achievable goal.

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Although still suffering from fatigue, generally speaking, I feel much more myself, more mentally alert than I have done for some time. My skin is working its way through the healing process, the redness has progressed to looking more like a dirty sun burn, and has started to peel.  The random stabbing pains in my breasts can be troublesome at times and sleeping varies from uncomfortable through to painful. If I lay awkwardly in my sleep, it can take a while for the pain to subside, sometimes I can’t find a comfortable position for my arms, this is all quite normal after treatment for breast cancer, but that doesn’t stop it being frustrating. I carried too much the other day and suffered for it during the night, a lesson learned in moderation, just when I feel I should be healed enough, my body reminds me that I am not.

Ann, who leads the relaxation classes at the Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre is qualified in lots of therapeutic things including Yoga and is also a retired Nurse, made me feel like a naughty child last week for saying that I was planning to go back to work in a few weeks. She says I shouldn’t rush back, should give my mind and body plenty of time to come to terms with the Cancer diagnosis and treatment, this has been a recurring opinion from many of the health care team I have seen over the past few months. I told Ann it felt like I was being told off by my mum, what I didn’t say was that like my teenage self, I will do what I feel I have to do and return to work part time in two weeks’ time anyway. I will do what I can, I may surprise myself and hit the ground running, or I may struggle with lack of concentration and with fatigue, time will tell.

I do worry about the concentration issue, as with all breast cancer patients, to keep my chest, shoulder and arm muscles and tendons supple I have a thrice daily exercise routine, the practice for these is to do each exercise five times, and some to a count of ten. Sounds simple doesn’t it, but I cannot manage to count to ten and also remember how many repetitions I have done. I start off OK, I can count to ten but then my mind wanders and I forget where I am up to with the repetitions.

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Today has been a bad day, low energy and what started as a low grade headache has progressed to a full blown one, with tense shoulders and neck to go with it. I have the second session of the HOPE Course in the morning so I’m heading off to bed with some painkillers and hope for the best that it will be gone when I wake up.